Monday, November 05, 2007

Google's Worst Kept Secret

Well, the rumours about Google launching a phone have been around since at least December last year and the hype has gradually been building. However, when you look at the number of partners involved in the first tangible news on the Google Phone, you begin to be amazed at how they've kept it as quiet as they have.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Web2.0 Will Re-Ignite of the Value of Information

The Internet killed the value of information. Information became so pervasive that traditionally information-based businesses needed to reinvent themselves to survive because a few button clicks in Google (or even AltaVista) could open up a library of information more impressive than most... well... libraries. Professional service providers became undermined by automated tools and strove for added value.

With Web2.0 allowing almost anyone to become a publisher, you might have expected this trend to continue. Has it? Will it? Actually, I'm going to be rash and make a prediction. Safe in the knowledge that I can delete this post down the line, I'm going to put my head on the block of futurology. I believe information has become such a commodity that people are finally starting to recognise the value of good quality sources. Others might say that we've all experienced misinformation online and that such scraping of the barrel was bound to induce a hockey stick kicker. Differentiation has real meaning. Wikis compiled by professional service providers are garnering a respect not seen since the late eighties. Beware the expert- they're back, and they really are experts!

The true acid test though, is "are people prepared to pay for it?" Look out for those green shoots. Expect a resurgance in subscription newsletters, but watch for the subtle transfer to the blog format. Round the corner is a new wave of knowledge commerce.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Food Heroes

Regular readers will know the hallowed reverence with which I acclaim engineering heroes of yesterday. They will therefore understand how delighted I am that, perhaps, the greatest engineer of his time Isambard Kingdom Brunel has been at last been given the accolade of having a crusty bloomer named after him. About time too.

Congrats to The Boston Tea Party cafe in Exeter who have put The Brunel sarny together. Exactly what a peppered pastrami with horseradish mayo, tomato, red onion and rocket in granary has to do with the son of a Frenchman who designed ships, bridges, tunnels and railway stations is anyones guess. Fortunately, The Boston Tea Party do a great Latte, so they can name their sandiches what they like!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Toothbrush is more Powerful than my First Computer

Reading an article in the latest Wired magazine about microprocessors in the home, I was astonished to see that even my electric toothbrush has a chip which is capable of processing 10 Million Instructions Per Second (MIPS). Sure, that oomph is probably only telling a motor what to do and managing the power around the rechargeable battery, but then you can still drive a Lamborghini at 30 mph if you want to.

This prompted me to find out how my first computer compared- the ZX81. The processor was a Zilog Z80 with, according to Lud's Linux Corner, just 0.58 MIPS.

So, my toothbrush has nearly 20 times more processing power than my first computer... discuss!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm an Electricity Junky

Going about my work I carry around a plethora of devices, all with a nasty ampere habit! I need to feed this habit. The problem has been exaggerated by the recent arrival of a Nokia N95, whose GPS feature (with the navigation subscription) has been wholly useless to me (I know where I've been going) but which I leave turned on for the pure fun of it. BUT IT SUCKS POWER. Add onto this my tendancy to leave bluetooth on all the time means that I've formed an acute sensitivity to where the power sockets are in any room or building I enter. No matter whether it is a bar, a friend's home, a business partner's office or public buildings, I enter rooms with my eyes wide open and scanning the skirting board like a junkie needing a fix.

What with our sources of energy becoming increasingly precious and our cravings for power sockets increasing, what would you call the resulting phenomenon?

Power pinchers? Power poachers? Socket surfers? Electricity junkies? Ampere addicts? Hz hoppers (hertz hoppers)? Volt hoovers?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Microblogging- a Sort of Electronic Graffiti?

There was a fantastic article in today's Financial Times by Chris Nuttall titled "Micro-bloggers of the world keep it short" which describes the phenomenon which is set to put all us macro-bloggers with the dinosaurs- Micro-blogging.

Unlike blogging, micro-blogging puts more emphasis on the aggregation of even more sporadic information through sites and apps such as Twitter, Tumblr, Jaiku, Mozes and Moodgeist. The article quotes Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, on how the limiting of posts to 140 characters (the SMS single message limit) is like "...writing on a wall and if some chooses to read it they can do".

As a child of the 70s and 80s, it strikes me that this is analagous to graffiti. On the surface, it seems futile, but it shows that many people are driven to hang their short thoughts out there and people do enjoying reading them- and not only to find out how free 'Mandy' is with her affections or who "was here".

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Review of a Spartan Healthcare Computing 2007

I have great respect for the organisers of the event, the British Computing Society (at least, I think they're involved somewhere along the line) and the exhibitors who made a brave stand, but that was the problem with Healthcare Computing 2007- it felt like the last stand. Having two posts in a row about the stiffling of innovation in the health care sector and I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the event really depressed me.

Most annual shows for any industry sector worth billions of Euros are showcases of the latest and greatest technologies with all the buzz that goes with it. It simply wasn't all that. Harrogate was not ringing to the beat of deal making and new product launches. It was like stepping back at least 5 years. Perhaps more. I was going to have a harrumph at Cerner for emphasising the divide between the have ( NPfIT contract) and the have nots ( NPfIT contract) because their stand dwarfed most others... but at least they supported the event. BT, iSoft and the other big contract holders didn't even show up. Having been a supplier in another sector not too long ago I really appreciate the costs associated with exhibiting at such an event and therefore the valiant efforts of those who showed.

I spotted suppliers at the event who had chosen not to exhibit. They, and some of the exhibitors who could be frank with me, lamented the fact that of the thousands of people who pass through the depleted halls, only a handful of people are buying. The rest are not as they've no decision making power.

Still, with 90 minutes of my time there to go, I finally found a couple of tech nuggets. They were well hidden, reflecting the lack of recognition of anything new, but that makes the opportunity all the greater for us.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Has State Managed Health Care Stifled Technology Innovation?

This will almost certainly prove to be a controversial post. I don't intend to offend, but I do wish to stimulate debate.

The hypothesis of the debate is that since the creation of the National Health Service in 1947, the UK health care sector has not been conducive to developing new technologies.

Although this has been in my mind for a while a piece of evidence came to me in a presentation on medical imaging at the IET London Local Network last night by Teresa Robinson, a Consultant Clinical Scientist in Bristol. Thanks for that Teresa, although I must stress that these are my views. Teresa showed that the early Computed Tomography (CT) research and development was done in the UK by EMI. The presentation also noted various British luminaries in the advancement of medical imaging.

EMI made a huge commercial success from innovations in such areas as radar, millimeter waves, microwave and CRT. This spans a period from WW2 through to recent decades. For some reason, EMI could not repeat that success with CT (which is also in the radiating electrophysics domain) and EMI abandoned its efforts in that arena. Now, just a few decades on, the CT industry is dominated by Siemens of Germany, GE of the US, Phillips of the Netherlands and Toshiba of Japan. These are all countries with what you might call progressive health care systems.

What went wrong? Perhaps EMI did not find a domestic marketplace full of clients ready to try new techniques?

I feel that customers drive innovation. It is their hunger to do things better, faster or cheaper that compels industry to satiate that hunger. Free health care at the point of delivery is a great vision, but have we lost the leading edge? Are the two mutually exclusive?

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Going Ga Ga for Open Process Frameworks

Not since Jim felt the same techno-twinge of excitement 339 days ago in March 2006 has anyone posted anything on a blog about Open Process Frameworks (OPF)*. Anyway, yours truly was trying to reconcile our organisation's Testing Process with a third party's who we need to demonstrate compliance to. In needing a little Google-help I stumbled across the Open Process Framework Repository Organization.

The description on the tin isn't going to see this competing with Britney's shaven head for popularity in the search engines... "a public-domain object-oriented framework of free, open source, reusable method components". However, this is a gold mine for IT professionals. Anyway, if you haven't already sensed that this is serious competitive advantage stuff, then more fool you... I'm not telling anymore. You need to find out for yourself.

I've only bounced around one small corner of this vast repository, but I'm sure this will be helping to shape our IT organisation work for years to come.

*quick Technorati plug.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Technology Entropy in 3D Visualisation

Not long ago visualisation was the preserve of cutting edge aerospace research. In the last decade, it was still the preserve of high end workstations from organisations like Silicon Graphics. Those folks are still leading the pack, but now fairly ubiquitous PCs and Macs can be used with the right software to create stunningly rendered environments. Still, I was amazed to see recently that 3D visualisation has moved into the realm of the FREE Adobe Acrobat Reader. The 3D images need to be created from a CAD package with the $995 Adobe Acrobat 3D product, but then anyone with Reader can view and manipulate the image. Sounds dull huh? Just try it...

Have a look at this jet engine data sheet. Zoom in on the engine in the top right corner of the sheet and then use the special toolbar to pan, zoom and rotate. Also, try the tabs on the left hand side to add or remove components and assemblies.

Absolutely amazing. Just remember this is a free viewing tool.

There is a warning message here for other specialist technology companies. You need to keep innovating to stay in business. You can't hold back the knowledge from progressing into the main stream- I call it 'technology entropy'. We're seeing the same in healthcare with Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) which are used to store and distribute complex and large MR and CT images. We are moving from this being the exclusive domain of heavy iron manufacturers into being wrapped up in terrabyte drives, browser applets and broadband connections.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Google Ten Things

A colleague highlighted Google's Ten Things to me. Fantastic ethos.

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
3. Fast is better than slow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
7. There's always more information out there.
8. The need for information crosses all borders.
9. You can be serious without a suit.
10. Great just isn't good enough.

Have a look at the source for more information.

We were already applying some of these in our business, but we will learn from the others.

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How Tech Savvy are You? Vista Wizard or Vista Wotnot?

When impressing upon people how tech savvy you are, don't sum up your cutting edge knowledge in terms of what you read about the launch of Vista this morning in "Metro" (the free London paper). We want to hear about how it compares with the Mac OS roadmap, whether the pricing model is too complicated and how it reflects the Windows Presentation Foundation- not that it "is apparently better than XP". $200 billion says it is better than XP!

Sometimes, you meet people like that and wonder why they are in IT.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Skype Users Fall Foul of Law with Lie Detector Tech

Recently Skype integrated lie detector technology from KishKish into its VoIP client as a paid-for service. Law firms such as Pinsent Masons point out that this is illegal to use on several counts in the UK.

Whilst undoubtedly an intriguing service, you wonder who'd make use of it- fast food delivery companies suspecting tricksters? Suspicious partners? I wonder how many false positives these technologies flag up?

Anyway it's naughty so don't do it... but let me know if you have and it works.

With the proliferation of plug-ins as organisations like Skype open their source code and APIs, this sort of technology will become easy to download from 3rd parties for install by consumers. This will be incredibly hard to detect and prosecute. Especially if, as this report on the National High Tech Crime Unit records, the police are ill equipped to cover the basics.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Brand Sincerity

Some Leadership consultants spoke in our Monday morning prayers today. They talked about how great companies that sustain phenomenal growth over long periods of time often have 'brand sincerity'. A great test of this sincerity is that they communicate the same message (brand values, principles, strategy, purpose etc) to the public, as they do to their employees.

Some businesses even buy their public domain advertising in a way which targets their own employees.

I know of many companies which would fail this brand sincerity test. How would yours fare?

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

How Will the Apple iPhone get to market in the UK?

Today at MacWorld Expo, Steve Jobs made the much anticipated announcement that the iPhone will be launched this year. The story is being covered thoroughly across the blogosphere with particularly good coverage at Engadget. In short, a very exciting looking product.

The phone will be launched in the US mid year, then Europe before the end of 2007 and Asia in 2008. The prices being announced in the US are based on a Cingular exclusive 2 year contract from $499 for the entry level phone.

My question is- how will this play out in the UK? The networks are very powerful and their model of subsidising at the point of sale is particularly aggressive. Phones that would otherwise retail at around £500 can actually cost the user only a hundred pounds up front if they are on a sufficiently high usage contract. I've never paid for any of my phones because of my business usage, despite opting for the high end business phones each year [Note that it is not unknown for a monthly bill to exceed £1,000 so I don't feel especially priviledged about the situation].

Watch out for announcements.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS?

Essential viewing starting tonight in the UK for all healthcare industry professionals is "Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS?" on BBC2 at 9pm. This British Business Guru spent 6 months in Rotherham General Hospital and the sneaky preview at The Telegraph suggests that he found it a very frustrating (but rewarding) experience. He cites the considerable challenges in the public sector and the difficulty in motivating consultant doctors to work more hours/more productively in coming to the conclusion that all is not lost. What is needed to manage these "brilliant, extraordinary people" are really excellent managers.

I agree. I think there are other ways to motivate the consultants too but I'll be interested to see if the programme covers these.

I'll be interested in seeing what the local press reaction to the programme is. So far the Yorkshire Post has been quite non-committal.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wandering the US with WanderingDave

Ah, this is what Saturday mornings are for- sitting back with a large pot of coffee, in your dressing gown, just following hyperlinks round the web and seeing what takes your fancy (I think we used to call it surfing). Absolutely no objective in mind. Just browsing for the curiosity of it. Actually, I'm meant to be working through a list of chores where item 1 is "Complete tax return" but, not having read about the power of starting, I'm in task-avoidance mode.

And I'm glad that I am, because I've found one of those gems to add to my feeds- WanderingDave's blog. Dave Burke has a whole website supporting all manner of media, from podcasts and newpaper columns to audio that he hopes will be syndicated by radio stations as he does what many of us would want to- and takes a year 'out' to travel round the US.

Stay tuned. It should be fascinating and fun. Where will he go? What will he make of those places? Thanks to Technorati for helping with my aimless browsing.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

YouTube Not Being Criticised for Once

It's interesting that in the Saddam video inquiry everyone is being mentioned as being set to get a wrap across the knuckles... except for YouTube. The taunter, the videoer, those responsible for security and the TV stations have all been put under suspicion of something-or-other by either the Iraqi authorities, foreign politicians or the media. No one has, as yet, accused YouTube of anything- who originally hosted the video online.

I'm not saying that they should be accused of anything, but it is the new fangled players who often are first to be attacked- not last.


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Keep it Simple with Healthcare IT

In healthcare IT you hear alot about interoperability and integration of systems. Whilst this is extremely valid, I and my peers often lose our colleagues in technical jargon and presume that the sector is more mature than it really is. Some problems are more immediate than that.

If you watch how a retail assistant, waiter/waitress or bar tender interacts with their terminal, it is very quick and rapid fire. Tokens often allow near instantaneous log on. Then they punch some buttons and walk away. Do they put time aside at the end of their shift to reckon up? No. How long do you think it took to train new joiners? Not long- they probably picked it up on the job.

Now look at how clinicians access healthcare IT. Ouch.

Add that to the list.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Tesla- the Best Kept Electric Car Secret

Don't worry. Although I do think that climate change is a very important issue of our time, this isn't some sort of New Year's resolution to change my blog's subject. However, here's a well kept secret about electric cars that's worth knowing.

Most people turn their noses up at the idea of an electric car. When you ask people what it would take for them to drive one, they start to quote petrol sportscar-like numbers. You know the ones:

0-60mph in 4 secs
250 mile range
Over 130mph


Well, what if I were to tell you that those numbers were taken from the specification of a car due to hit the US market in Feb 2008? Only about a year away. It looks great too.

Find out more and put your name on the waiting list at the website of Tesla Motors. Let's hope the project goes well.

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"Save the Planet" Ecademy Club Founder on YouTube

The climate change author, Anthony Day (of Will Climate Change Your Life? fame), interviewed Michelle Clarke- a 5 minute summary is shown here. Another Al Gore convert.

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